The butler didn

This time the butler didn’t do it but that still wasn’t enough to remain employed. Jeeves, the dapper, grinning butler figurehead for Web search company Ask Jeeves Inc. will soon be told his services will no longer be required.

Jeeves’ pink slip came from IAC/InterActiveCorp chairman and chief executive officer Barry Diller, who announced the alteration during a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investor conference last month in New York. IAC/InterActiveCorp completed its purchase of Ask Jeeves in July.

The company said it intends to phase out the iconic character entirely. “Jeeves will disappear, and we will be called Ask or,” Diller said.

Search engine Ask Jeeves was among the first commercial question-answering search engines for the World Wide Web. But faced with stiff competition from more popular Web search rivals Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., the firm ultimately decided that it was time for a change.

Jeeves, created by British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, was slimmed down and given a tan last year, said Lisa Meakin, a London-based spokeswoman for Ask Jeeves. But surveys showed users tended to pigeonhole the search engine as “old-fashioned” and only appropriate for question-based queries, Meakin said.

The Web search vendor’s research has shown that use of the Jeeves character as the prominent symbol of the brand blinds people to recent changes and improvements in the search engine, the company said in a statement.

No time line has been given for Jeeves’ departure, and no final decision on a new name for the search engine has been made, according to the firm.

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